Beth Kanter is a trainer, speaker, and author, most recently of The Happy Healthy Nonprofit. A version of this article originally appeared on bethkanter.org. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Thought leaders drive conversations online and off. They influence others, shape perceptions in their field, and serve as the go-to source for those seeking to understand sector issues. Many nonprofit leaders use their social media profiles—on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere—to extend the reach of their leadership and connect with colleagues, the media, and policy makers.
Why? Three good reasons:
It’s fast. While you can’t exactly become a thought leader in the time it takes for your lunch order to come up, you can develop your reputation in those spare moments you find yourself scrolling through your favorite social media app.
It’s effective. Social media provides an easy connection—and in some cases, instant interaction—with other leaders in your field. In addition, a practitioner’s voice can generate a level of trust that an organizational account may not: studies show that brand messages are shared more often when they come from individuals rather than the brand itself. Social channels (especially Twitter) are also monitored by some policy makers, and used by reporters looking for stories and sources.
And it’s easy. Share a link to the article you’re perusing in your Facebook or Twitter feed, along with a line of commentary, and congratulations: you’re shaping the conversation, building authority, and giving voice to your organization.
Five steps to get started:
1. Take a tutorial. Find a cheat sheet online and teach yourself (or your colleagues!) the basic commands for using Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn on computers and mobile devices.
2. Follow peers. Check out what other nonprofit professionals are doing on social media channels. Play off their posts, respond to their thoughts, or just let your competitive side get the best of you—peer pressure works!
3. Make it snappy. Using social media shouldn’t require hours of time. You can build your network while you wait in line for lunch or commute to work (on public transportation—please, no Tweeting while driving).
4. Reach out to a native. Ask a sector colleague who’s fluent in social media for help. They can make sure you’re following the best sources and help you learn advanced techniques like scheduling posts and creating targeted lists.
5. Check your impact. With an easy-to-use tool like Twiangulate, you can get a sense of your influence. (For example, by finding out where your reach and the reach of your organization diverge.)